More Antikythera Wreck Hype

Jo Marchant has written another piece for the Guardian (confusingly, with the same title as a previous piece) detailing a bit more what they hope to find … in medias res:

[...] For centuries Antikythera was in a busy shipping lane, but surprisingly its treacherous underwater cliffs and reefs are not littered with sunken ships (perhaps those ancient navigators were more skilled than we thought). And there are no obvious signs of a wreck at the site supposedly excavated by Cousteau, suggesting that he recovered all of the visible items there – or that he planted some of his finds for the cameras.

But 200 metres away, the divers found artefacts spread across the rocky sea floor, on a steep slope between 35 and 60 metres deep.

The largest item recovered was a huge lead anchor stock. It was lying on a semicircular object that might be a scupper pipe, used to drain water from the ship’s deck. If so, the ship may have gone down as she was sailing with the anchor stowed. The team also raised an intact storage jar (amphora), which matches those previously recovered from the wreck. DNA tests may reveal its original contents.

Most intriguing are dozens of irregular spherical objects sprinkled across the wreck site. They look like rocks but contain flecks of green, suggesting small bronze fragments, corroded and encrusted in sediment after thousands of years in the sea. This is just what the Antikythera mechanism looked like when it was discovered. Then again, they could be collections of ship’s nails.

Because the artefacts the team found are a short distance from the site investigated by Cousteau, it’s possible that they belong to a second ship from around the same date as the original wreck, perhaps part of the same fleet. But Foley thinks it more likely that all of the remains come from one vessel that broke up as it sank.

To confirm this, he hopes to revisit the site later this year. He wants to use metal detectors to map the distribution of metal and ceramic objects buried beneath the surface, as well as dig a few test trenches. “I’m intensely curious about what’s in the sediments,” he says. [...].

cf. our previous coverage on Foley’s work … it includes a link to Marchant’s previous item: Returning to Antikythera

Antikythera Shipwreck AIA Tease

USA Today has some hype for Brendan Foley’s AIA paper today, including this tantalizing paragraph:

[...] Along with vase-like amphora vessels, pottery shards and roof tiles, Foley says, the wreck also appears to have “dozens” of calcified objects resembling compacted boulders made out of hardened sand resting atop the amphorae on the sea bottom. Those boulders resemble the Antikythera mechanism before its recovery and restoration. In 2006, an X-ray tomography team reported that the mechanism contained at least 30 hand-cut bronze gears re-creating astronomical cycles useful in horoscopes and timing of the Olympic Games in the ancient world, the most elaborate mechanical device known from antiquity until the Middle Ages. “The (objects) may just be collections of bronze nails, but we won’t know until someone takes a look at them,” Foley says. [...]

… would be nice if some of the twitterati gave this some coverage …

Returning to Antikythera

Various spins of this news bouncing around the interwebs … here’s the AFP version:

A new search has begun at a Greek island where an ancient device known as the world’s “oldest computer” was found over a century ago, an official said, adding that other discoveries were possible.

Archaeologists this week returned to Antikythera, the Aegean Sea island where sponge divers in 1900-1901 found the so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a remarkable 2nd-century BCE device that tracked the cycles of the solar system.

“These are unexplored sea depths beneath a trade route known since antiquity,” said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece’s ephorate of underwater antiquities. “This is virgin territory.”

Believed to operate by crank and containing inter-meshing gears, the mechanism could be used to calculate eclipses and moon cycles. The technology was comparable to astronomical clocks that only appeared some 1,600 years later.

It was found in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome.

The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, who has helped in past outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years.

Foley is contributing autonomous underwater vehicles to map the seabed and rebreather equipment that partially recycles a diver’s oxygen and will enable the researchers to probe previously inaccessible depths, the senior archaeologist said.

Simosi said she had visited Antikythera in 1985 during construction work to widen the local port of Potamos and the bay was “full of antiquities”.

“I believe we could find something equivalent to the Antikythera Mechanism,” Simosi said.

“If we do, the entire department will likely need to be sent out,” she said.

The operation, jointly funded by the Greek state and Woods Hole, will continue until October 22.

Jo Marchant’s piece for the Guardian is also worth a look (JM, of course, has recently written about the Antikythera Mechanism in Decoding the Heavens …:

Some previous coverage on the AM worth looking at: